LIKE the look of that cute puppy you saw on the internet or the fluffy kitty in the pet-store window?
Canberra City News; Eleri Harris, 16 September 2010
Would-be pet owners beware, the RSPCA ACT warns the Territory is rife with backyard breeders selling animals beset with problems caused by in-breeding.
This is why in the next sitting week of the ACT Legislative Assembly, Labor backbencher Mary Porter says she will table a discussion paper on a mandatory code of practice for the breeding and sale of companion animals. “There are people breeding dogs who have no experience or understanding about what they’re doing in backyards across the Territory,” RSPCA ACT CEO Michael Linke said.
“Some dogs have heads too small so they have seizures. “We had a pug in today, bred in Canberra, it’s been inbred so much we have to remove an eye and give it surgery so it can breathe properly. “We’re seeing a different issue every week.”
The ACT has a voluntary code of practice that was introduced in 1992 along with the Animal Welfare Act, but pre-internet and unenforceable.
“The voluntary code of practice isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” Linke said.”There is no enforcement action.
“A mandatory code and enforceable and supported animal welfare legislation is needed.” Porter says the ACT needs to take leadership on this issue to encourage nationwide regulation of breeders.
Her discussion paper will suggest registration for breeders, increased pull factors to desex and vaccinate animals and more comprehensive licensing.
“You often have voluntary codes, but unfortunately they’re not strong enough to require people to actually adhere to them, that is why we’re looking at a mandatory code,” Porter said.
“A lot of our sales now of domestic animals are on the internet. It’s a lot more difficult in many ways, it’s harder to control sales, how that purchase is made and where that purchase is from.
“You don’t know where that animal was bred and the conditions in which it was bred, whether or not it has any behaviours or issues the person should be aware of.
“There’s a lot involved in looking after an animal and having an animal as part of your household. I think the way we treat animals says a lot about us as humankind.”
Porter is starting with a discussion paper because she wants the community to get involved in developing the code.
“We’ve had advice from the council. we’ve had advice from the industry itself, the pet industry, and we’ve had advice from the RSPCA. I think that what we’re putting up is not untested in that regard, but it does need to be released and tested more broadly.
“I’m happy for expert bodies to comment on it, but I’m also wanting the public to comment on it. In the end they’re the people who are going to rock up to the pet shop or go on the internet and purchase an animal.” Porter says she is working with NSW MP Steve Whan to make sure the code is developed with consideration to cross-border issues.
“We need to be cognisant of what is happening in our neighbouring States, Victoria as well as NSW,” she says. Liberal MLA Alistair Coe is unconvinced the Territory needs a mandatory code of conduct.
“We certainly do acknowledge there is an issue that needs to be addressed, but we’re not convinced at this stage that a mandatory code of conduct is necessary,” Coe says.
“We will look at the discussion pa- per with interest, but at this stage it’s too early to commit to any position.” The Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur says her party is supportive of the code, but all animals need better protection, not just companion animals.
“I’ve got really high hopes for this process, as the issues are real and quite distressing,” Le Couteur said, “A mandatory code is the right way to go and should include clear rules around intensive puppy breeding, pet shop activities and regulating puppy sales. We also very much want to see the underfunding of the pound and RSPCA addressed.